Monday 9th September Unbelievably complex day and I am not sure I can begin to describe it. Start at 5am as BBC Essex have asked me to come on early to talk about infrastructure in Chelmsford. The closure of the Army and Navy is causing real problems and needs to be sorted urgently. Hop on a train to Westminster where as Chair of the All Party Group for Infrastructure I meet with the Institute for Civil Engineers. I meet the World Bank about UK funding for projects in developing countries, then representatives of the Revenge Porn Helpline who support adults who have been victims of intimate image abuse.
At two thirty the House begins sitting, and the mood is tense. I’m in the Chamber immediately after education questions when the Speaker announces he will step down at the end of October. This is not expected by any on the Government benches but clearly the Opposition is aware. They rise in a standing ovation, this is awkward as standing and clapping is strictly forbidden under parliamentary rules. The Speaker is showered with praise, but as soon as business moves on to the next agenda item he returns to his normal self of shouting and hollering at colleagues. There is a motion which will force the Government to hand over phone messages from civil servants and advisors. Another difficult precedent as civil servants are meant to be able to give advice in private.
I meet Chelmsford residents who have come for an Extinction Rebellion meeting. We chat and I give them a copy of our latest Select Committee report on how to address climate change, then back into the Chamber where there is still a very angry mood amongst colleagues. Meet the Treasury Minister about the “Loan Charge” which has affected many Chelmsford folk and give a speech at an event on Women in the Tech Sector.
Jeremy Corbyn comes to the House of Commons. He says he wants to block a no deal Brexit, and that proroguing parliament will be undemocratic. But he gives no suggestions as to what he would do to secure a deal. Frustrating. I go to meet the Chancellor, thank him for the funding towards the new station and bypass and tell him about the Army and Navy.
The Government loses two votes, one will force the Prime Minister to extend the negotiating deadline and the second forces him to release his negotiation strategy papers. In my view both of these make getting a deal even more difficult.
Boris Johnson offers the Opposition a General Election in order to break the deadlock. It is past midnight by now. People are still really angry. The Opposition do not vote so the required majority does not go through. By 1.30 am we are back in the Chamber again when the Leader of the House announces plans to prorogue parliament. This means shutting down parliament until the next Queen’s Speech in October. In order for this to happen the Speaker has to go to the House of Lords in a formal procession. There is another massive bust up in the Chamber. Some accuse the Government of being anti-democratic, but these are the same MPs who just blocked a General Election (!). Opposition MPs try to pin the Speaker down in his chair, holding up protest signs, shouting and jeering. Eventually the Speaker goes with a very dignified Black Rod to the Lords. I sit in the corner with some colleagues watching what happens next, where upon the Labour MPs break into singing the “Red Flag” - an infamous song of Soviet times. Goodness. By 2am we are prorogued but it’s clear there is more tension ahead.
Tuesday 10th September After three hours sleep, I head off to the Institute for Civil Engineers for the launch of a major “State of the Nation” report on Housing and Infrastructure. The funding we have now got for Beaulieu Station and bypass is the largest housing related infrastructure grant awarded anywhere in the country. I have been asked to speak at the report launch about the project and what made it such a successful bid. I drink lots of coffee.
Clear up some work in my Westminster office, catch up with some colleagues, and head back to Chelmsford where I go to the opening of the new building for Kids Inspire. This is a fabulous charity which helps children and young people who have suffered hideous trauma. They are so very happy in their new home in Great Baddow. It’s a joyous occasion.
Wednesday 11th September Catch up on some sleep, research and write an article for the paper about vaccinations (they matter!) and clear a back log of work before going out to Beulieu Park to deliver my annual report and an update on the railway station and Army and Navy. It’s a beautiful afternoon and very good to chat with lots of people. The decision to prorogue parliament has been challenged in the Scottish courts. The break in parliament may not last for long!
Thursday 12th September I have started writing a monthly electronic newsletter and spend some time working on the latest edition. Before the afternoon rush hour starts, I head down to New London Road. I have been told that the traffic has been dreadful here, one constituent told me it took him 45 minutes to move just one mile in the grid lock recently. I spend some time watching the traffic which appears to be better for now, but clearly a long-term solution for the Army and Navy is needed.
Friday 13th September It is Chelmsford Heritage Open Days and I join a group of residents for a walk to learn about Marconi’s history in Chelmsford. It’s truly fascinating. As the Home of Radio, Chelmsford played a key role in the communications revolution that still continues today. I meet the Chief Crown Prosecutor who tells me about their work throughout Essex. We discuss recent news about the decline in the number of rape cases being taken to court and the work he is doing with the police to make sure cases are being well investigated.
I head up to the Beaulieu School where 181 students have just finished their first week at this brand-new school. They are full of energy and clearly loving being part of this new exciting project. It is hugely inspiring – massively well done to all.